In America, especially in recent years, there has been a trend of anti-establishmentarianism that has seeped into our national intellect. Since 2016, we’ve ventured as a country far beyond not trusting incumbent politicians to not trusting experts or professionals. It seems that since 2016, the best way to delegitimize someone is to remind the world of the extent of the sources’ experience and knowledge.
Twenty-four hour news networks like FOX, CNN and MSNBC exacerbate this. At such a strongly conservative campus like the University of Dallas, many of us care more about politics than the average college student, and we rely heavily on these networks to provide us with our news.While widespread and easily digestible, this sort of news must appeal to the common man so it naturally takes on a populist leaning.
This is not, however, a reflection on the networks’ reporting capabilities. Surely, there is much lacking on both sides in that regard, but I am specifically referring to the opinion pieces that dominate the airtime. On that note, I ask a very simple question:
Since Sean Hannity and Brian Williams both dropped out of college, why should we care about either of their opinions on Syria? George Stephanopoulos earned a masters in theology and Bret Baier earned a bachelor’s in political science and English. Why should we care about their opinions on trade negotiations with the Pacific rim?
These people are just trying to leverage their national microphone into an intellectual legitimacy they don’t have. And what does America have to show for it? Sean Hannity saying “Obama is an elitist” for putting Dijon mustard on his hamburger?
Make no mistake, this is not limited to television. I turn on my radio and hear Rush Limbaugh saying that “Obama sends soldiers to Africa to kill Christians” when in fact the president actually sent advisors to help crush Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army. I log on to Mother Jones or Breitbart, only to see outright lies in the headlines being picked up and repeated by my peers and these pundits on the news as if they’re inalienable truth.
There is a crisis of scarcity when it comes to American intellectualism, and there is one last safe haven I implore all of us at the University of Dallas to turn to: think tanks.
A think tank is an organization that performs research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture. They are usually non-profit, and their contributors are all professionals in their field.
When you read think tank articles rather than mainstream news pieces, you’re getting actual generals, diplomats, and department officials writing about foreign policy. In these journals, real economists are writing about the economy — people who have studied niche subjects for their entire livelihood giving you their professional fact based opinion on these issues. There are definitely political biases among think tanks, that much is true, but regardless of what they believe, anyone worth their salt will defend their beliefs well and with actual arguments, as opposed to the name calling and armchair fallacies so often employed by our 24-hour media.
This decay in American intellectualism has been a long process in the making, but it is time we demand better of ourselves and stop listening to the pundits who only serve to create reaffirming safe spaces for our preexisting biases. So turn off Fox News, un-bookmark Mother Jones and go read something from American Enterprise Institute or Center for American Progress.